Stepping Out of the Box

This year marked the first year for the implementation of the social studies MEAP (Michigan Education Assessment Program). The official reason for the creation of the MEAP is to gauge the effectiveness of public education-to hold public education accountable. In my mind, the reason for the creation of the MEAP is to regulate the knowledge that teachers teach and kids learn. 

During the "MEAP frenzy," I decided to write a letter to my school superintendent. The main idea of the letter explained how the MEAP was a form of regulated knowledge, knowledge that served the interest of the elite. The superintendent responded by having my building principal deal with the matter. My building principal said that there is nothing we can do about the MEAP being that is was a state-mandated test. I decided that the debate about the MEAP needed a jolt. 

The district in which I teach is networked through email. I my letter to all district staff. In case I needed to, I thought that I could defend my actions because a building principal had set a precedent by using district email as a method of disseminating material with an overt political content. I pressed the send button and went home. My thoughts fantasized into all the possible consequences like the dreaded phone call to my home to arrange a meeting with the superintendent and receive a whipping for my irresponsible actions. 

I returned the next day. The controller of the computer network decided that he would create a public folder in which staff members could discuss the MEAP. (Unfortunately, at this time, I have been the only teacher to post information.) This was encouraging and sent a message to me that I still had my job. Of the handful of responses to my letter, all but one were supportive. The curious part of the responses and the subsequent conversations with colleagues was the perception that I had taken a bold act. The rumor mill even came up with the idea that my email was being monitored by the administration. I realized that I had stepped outside the box. I asked permission from those who responded to my letter if they would allow me to post their responses in the newly created public folder. All but two said that they did not want there statements made public. During a meeting with about fifteen staff members about a unrelated topic, my building principal made two comments that struck me. First, the principal said that it was good that I was at this meeting because then I could be watched. The second comment was that I had better make sure there is a signature on my next paycheck. I knew that these comments were only jabs but I could not help but think the effects it had on those present. 

I found it horribly discouraging that in a public school system in an alleged democracy that a debate about something so close to a person's life could not be discussed publicly. 

The results of these actions have somewhat opened dialogue about the MEAP. However, significant change in the way public schools operate will not happen until people feel safe expressing their thoughts. In the school where I teach, MEAP is still the most common word used when discussing curriculum development. 

By: Gregory Queen 

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